Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Coincidence or Miracle?

On my recent trip to several parts of the United States, I was in the Chicago airport for a couple of hours on my way to visit my parents. I planned to spend some time with my parents to help them with some issues they are facing. To prepare, I had spoken a few weeks ago with my sister who lives in England and needed to speak with her again. She has spent a lot of time with them recently and is most aware of the details of their situation. However, two recent call attempts, email, and text had failed, probably because she has been extremely busy herself.

My wife and I had been sitting at our gate, but eventually both felt it would be good to wander down the hall and look for some food. We considered McDonalds but I couldn't see anything I would want to eat, so we continued further to a food court. With hundreds of people around me, my eyes were simply drawn to one particular woman who seemed familiar. As I got closer, i realized this was my sister, the very person I most needed to talk to in order to help my aging parents deal with some very serious issues.

She lives in England. what was she doing at the O'Hare Airport? We had no idea she was in the United States, but she had come here on a very quick trip to take care of another complex issue and was now on her way back to England. The chances of meeting her in the huge and busy Chicago airport were minuscule, yet there she was, the person I most needed to see and had tried to reach recently without success. The information I got from her during our chat would help us in our visits with my parents and make us much better aware of their needs. Just a random coincidence? Yes, perhaps, but it was certainly the kind of coincidence that should at least open one's mind to the possibility of a blessing from the Lord. The proper response, even if it was just coincidence this time, is gratitude, in my opinion, and a recognition of at least the possibility of the hand of the Lord in the event.

There are some coincidences that really are random or from sources other than divine intervention. The investigator who is visited by an anti-Mormon minister just after meeting with Mormon missionaries may be experiencing a coincidence, or the result of well-meaning friends arranging the coincidence to save a soul from Mormonism. Likewise, it is possible that the person who prays to know the truth and then sees an ad for the Mormons on TV right after the prayer or gets a knock on the door from missionaries may be experiencing a coincidence. It could be by divine design, but coincidence or not, the process of deciding to accept the LDS religion obviously must involve much more careful diligence than just relying on a lone coincidence, even if it may have been a deliberate blessing. It's fair to be open to the possibility of meaning behind the event, but it is not the end of the investigation process.

Life is full of coincidences. Some may seem both wildly improbable and a genuine blessing that solves a major problem, as my encounter in the airport did. For coincidences of that nature, I think it is fair and healthy to recognize that it may have been by divine design and to receive the blessing with gratitude. But be careful not to let a strange coincidence replace the careful consideration needed in making important decisions.

12 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Apropos to this actual post, with the church's emphasis on personal agency how is it possible that God could cause these sorts of coincidences? If he is interfering in people's lives enough to cause occurrences, hasn't he disrupted one of the fundamental laws of heaven?

Anonymous said...

To Anon 8:06 AM-
If I suggest to someone that they should be at a certain place at a certain time, that's not the same as me throwing them in my trunk and carting them to the specific place at the specific time. The spirit can prompt people to do things, while still giving them the option to say "no."

Jared said...

Those who know God best don't attribute an occurrence as you described at the airport as a coincidence. They would see it as a tender mercy from God.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:27

In your hypothetical, do you then get credit for the person being where you suggested he be?

Anonymous said...

At least partial credit. Of course the person had to respond positively too

Anonymous said...

What if there is road construction you didn't tell me about and I miss out on the opportunity? Are you then the one at fault?

Anonymous said...

Before I answer that, are there gonna be 10 million more whatif's or will you eventually acknowledge that agency isn't infringed upon by inviting people to act?

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Glenn Thigpen said...

Jeff,
I am not one that can discern a miracle from a happenstance as it applies to someone else. God does not seem to confide in me on those issues. But whatever the case, it was a miracle, or a miraculous coincidence. I would take either one.

Glenn

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